The Bulldogs returned to the friendly confines of McPherson Stadium on Saturday for their annual "Blake Reed Memorial Game" and came away with their second win of the 2018 season, defeating Southwestern 45-35. The win improved McPherson's record to 2-1 in both the overall and KCAC columns while dropping Southwestern to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in KCAC play.
The "ESPN3 KCAC Game of the Week," the teams entertained the crowd with a 3 1/2-hour contest which produced a combined 1,119 yards of total offense on 163 plays from scrimmage.
The visiting Moundbuilders opened the evening's scoring just three and a half minutes into the contest, when they pay-dirt with a quick 3-play drive which covered just 28 yards, capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Austin Early to Edrick Gonzales with 11:27 left in the opening period, set up by the first of two fumbles lost by McPherson in the first period.
Late in the first quarter, McPherson took possession at its own 8-yard line and put together a 9-play drive which covered 92 yards and was capped by Ed Crouch's 11-yard touchdown run. Freshman kicker Gabe Reed then added the first of what was to be a perfect six for six night on PAT kicks.
Southwestern needed less than two minutes to respond to the Bulldogs' score, driving 83 yards on eight plays, finished off by Keyshawn Wyatt hitting pay-dirt from 10 yards out and Alfredo Botello tacking on his second of five PAT kicks, giving the Moundbuilders a 14-7 lead just four seconds into the second period.
McPherson then put together an 11-play drive, but it stalled at the Southwestern 27-yard line and the Moundbuilders struck quickly covering 73 yards in just four plays, capped by an Early to Carontez Gates touchdown pass of 46 yards and a 21-7 Southwestern lead with 9:40 remaining in the half.
This time it though was the Bulldogs who would respond quickly as they covered 75 yards in just five plays, capped by Corey Davis' dive into the end zone from one yard out to narrow the deficit to seven points at 14-7, with 7:27 left in the second period.
After an exchange of punts, Oluwaseyi Johnson picked off a Southwestern pass which gave McPherson great field position at the Moundbuilders' 26-yard line. While it took nine plays, the Bulldogs took advantage of the turnover, and the short-field drive was finished off by Crouch racing in from 6 yards out and Reed's PAT which tied the game at 21-21 with just 16.5 seconds left in the half.
The final seconds of the half saw Southwestern advance to mid-field on two pass completion, but the clock ran out and the teams headed to their locker rooms all knotted up at 21-21.
At halftime, the McPherson College family celebrated the presentation of the 2018 "Blake Reed Mac-2-Mac Scholarship" to Joey Hale(SR, Hutchinson, Kan.).
Having won the opening coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Bulldogs received the kickoff and after setting up shop at its own 39-yard line, they needed only two plays to go the necessary 61 yards, covering the final 51 yards with a Crouch to freshman Ben Nikkel touchdown pass for the Bulldogs' first lead of the night at 28-21, just 41 seconds into the third period.
The Moundbuilders responded with a 4-play drive which took just 52 seconds to cover 75 yards, capped by a Kayshawn Wyatt 63-yard run which tied the game at 28-28.
Again, McPherson had an answer as the Bulldogs drove 93 yards in eight plays with Crouch connecting with Brandt Wolters from 19-yards out for the score and a 35-28 Bulldog lead with 11:04 still remaining in the third period.
The Moundbuilders following drive stalled at the Bulldog 36-yard line and after the Bulldogs drove to the Southwestern 17-yard line, McPherson called on Gabe Reed and the freshman toed through a 34-yard field goal, expanding the McPherson lead to 10 points (38-28) with 5:31 left in the period.
The Builders weren't to be denied though as they drove 65-yards in 9 plays in 3 1/2 minutes and struck pay-dirt as Wyatt dashed in from eight yards out and narrowed the Bulldog lead to 38-35 with 1:46 to go in the third period.
After an exchange of punts early in the final period, McPherson set up its offense at its own 18-yard line. The ensuing 13-play drive took almost 6 1/2 minutes off the clock and featured four Crouch pass completions, one to Jackson Goodmiller and three to Wolters, a pair of Crouch scrambles and Armond McCray taking the hand-off seven times, including the final three shots at the goal line from 4-, 2-, and finally 1-yard out for the touchdown. Reed's sixth successful PAT kick gave the Bulldogs their final 45-35 margin with 7:01 left on the game clock.
Southwestern drove to the McPherson 18-yard line on its next drive, but again stalled and Alfredo Botello's 35-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left up-right and back into the field of play.
McPherson would be forced to punt one last time before the final 3 1/2 minutes were played in the Southwestern half of the field where McPherson stopped the Builders on 4th-and-5 at the Southwestern 31, and then again on a 4th and 2 at the Builders' 39, before running out the clock on the 10-point win.
Ed Crouch led the McPherson offense, throwing for 343 yards on 26 or 34 passes and no interceptions while Jake Tiernan came off the bench to complete 3-of-4 passes for 67 yards. Top receivers for the Bulldogs were Jack Goodmiller, 9 catches for 80 yards, Brandt Wolters with 8 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown, Ben Nickkel with 3 catches for 112 yards and one TD and Corey Davis with three receptions for 36 yards. Crouch also led the McPherson ground game with 79 yards on 17 attempts while Armond McCray picked up 64 yards on 20 carries.
Keyshawn Wyatt led the Southwestern rushing attack with 180 yards on 23 attempts and three touchdowns. Austin Early threw for 324 yards, completing 21 of 36 attempts for two touchdowns and 1 interception. Edrick Gonzales topped the Moundbuilders receivers with 9 catches for 135 yards and touchdown while Carontez Gates had 5 receptions for 98 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Bulldogs have a "bye" week next week before returning to KCAC action on Sept. 29 when they entertain Friends University in a 7 p.m. game, again in McPherson Stadium.